Several newspapers and TV stations in Karnes County, San Antonio and Austin reported that two dogs were found dead at the animal control facility on November 9. The reports included allegations of “neglect,” and some alleged that animals at the facility had not been fed or given water in as much as a week.
County officials said there are currently no plans to investigate the cause of death for the animals.
As of Monday morning, the reports had been removed from the websites of all reporting media outlets except the KENS 5 news station, which originally broke the story, and examiner.com. The report filed by examiner.com is credited to an “animal rights examiner.”
“As far as the situation now, we have made arrangements to have someone go out there and take care of the animals until (animal control officer Karen Hale) can be back there and take care of them by herself,” county judge Alger Kendall said. “We’ve instructed this person to be there and take care of them every day. Even when Karen gets back she will have the help of this individual.”
The Karnes Countywide newspaper began receiving phone calls and emails about the situation at approximately 11 a.m. on November 9. Initially, reports varied and The Countywide was informed of deceased animals being found in Runge, Helena and Gillett.
KENS 5 reported on the situation in its 6 p.m. newscast on November 9, and the report filed on its website had a headline reading, “No food, no water – 2 dogs die in neglected Karnes animal shelter.” The report indicated that county animal control officer Karen Hale had been unavailable due to a health issue, and suggested that no one had visited the facility in at least two days.
Several reports conflict with both the allegation of “neglect,” which is a specific legal term, and the allegation that neither food nor water was available at the facility.
“I have a couple of swimming pools, one on the outside and one on the inside that are normally always full (of water),” Hale said. “The one on the inside is always full of water. There are buckets everywhere. There is food all the time. Even if they do get hungry all they need to do is walk into the feed room and rip open a bag of dog food – which they do on a daily basis. (Someone) had been covering for me, and he and I spoke daily. The only day I was informed that he could not make it over there was Monday, and I did. They were being taken care of.”
The Karnes County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the incident or provide a copy of its report to The Countywide, however, The Karnes County Times newspaper reported in its November 18 issue that food was observed by officers at the facility when they arrived Tuesday, and that “there was some uncertainty as to whether or not there was water available.” The Times report did not make mention that food was available at the facility until the 22nd, or third-to-last, paragraph of its article.
The Countywide newspaper observed water available at the facility Tuesday.
“Certainly I don’t think there are very many people out there that care for animals more than Karen does,” Kendall said. “The situation, we’re all very concerned about. When I came into office one of the first things that I did was meet with some people that were interested in animals. We got it arranged to where we had a better situation out there. We worked on that facility to make it better at different times. We’re all very concerned about it. When I heard about this situation I went out and checked on it and we started working to get it corrected as soon as possible. When I spoke with Karen she said she was there Monday and that there was food and water there Monday.”
Hale said that while it is regrettable, it is not uncommon for dogs to die at the facility. According to the National Animal Interest Alliance, 2.4 million dogs die in shelters in the United States each year.
Many of the dogs that Hale brings to the facility are obviously ill, she said, and cited parvo as the likely cause of death for the two dogs that perished last week. She said that had no news media been contacted on November 9, her temporary fill-in would have visited the facility at 5 p.m. that day and followed procedure to remove the dead animals.
“I bring in sick dogs all the time,” Hale said. “Especially the young dogs, their immune systems are not strong enough for some of the diseases I bring in. They’re in the ground, so yes, we do get some dogs that just get sick, especially with parvo, it’s a very mean thing.”
The Karnes County Animal Control Department has a budget of approximately $44,000 for the current fiscal year. Approximately $19,000 of that budget is allocated towards salaries, with $1,500 allocated towards euthanasia, $1,000 towards kennel expenses, $2,500 towards fuel, and $2,500 towards facility improvements and additions.
“It is something we are very concerned about and do want to make sure is properly handled,” Kendall said. “As far as I know on Monday they had food and water out there.”